Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The "huge con".

 If you want some insight on what has been happening to the GOP (or, as they are known now, the QOP) under Donald trump, check out this article from Mother Jones featuring a former GOP operative. 

"When Donald Trump decided to back-burner the coronavirus crisis and reboot his reelection campaign with superspreader events in June, he headed to an arena in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to present his case for four more years. In front of an audience of maskless fans standing side by side, Trump performed his usual routine. He threw out buzzwords (“law and order,” “left-wing radicals”). He boasted. (“I have done a phenomenal job” responding to the pandemic.) He denigrated his opponent as “Sleepy Joe.” He obsessed over personal grievances and slights, devoting much time to slamming news outlets that had recently shown video of him walking gingerly down a ramp after delivering a commencement address at West Point. What was mostly missing from Trump’s speech: ideas.

Although he referred to his tax cuts for the wealthy, his appointment of conservative judges, and his “beautiful” wall on the US-Mexico border, Trump had little to say about economic policy, national security, health care, education, housing, the environment, and other subjects. Moreover, he offered no agenda for a second term other than vague promises of making everything swell. Days later, during a friendly Fox News “town hall,” Sean Hannity asked Trump to spell out his plans for a second term. He replied by rambling on about his inauguration and attacking John Bolton.

All this was nothing new for Trump, who approaches the presidency more as performance artist than policymaker. But in the Oklahoma crowd were many unmasked Republican senators and House members, who clapped along and looked delighted to be props for The Trump Show. Once upon a time, Republican legislators and party leaders claimed they cared deeply about certain foundational issues—the deficit, family values, free trade, hawkish foreign policy. Now they were cheering a twice-divorced adulterer who had run up the federal debt, sloppily imposed tariffs, and embraced the anti-American autocrats leading Russia and North Korea—a man devoid of serious thought and guiding policy principles, a self-fixated candidate who presented no intellectual framework for his presidency. Had the GOP become the party of no ideas?

This seemed a premise worth exploring, so I thought I would check in with veteran Republicans who once were attracted to the party for its conservative ideals but who have become Trump critics. First on my list was Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential bid. I should note that I feel a bit awkward when I talk with Stevens. Plenty of people have asserted that my exposé of the “47 percent” tape in 2012—remember Romney denigrating nearly half of Americans as freeloaders who want the government to take care of them?—played a part in his defeat. But Stevens has always been gracious when we have crossed paths. And this time was no exception. It turned out Stevens had much to say on the current state of his party. Actually, enough for an entire book.

Asked if the Republican Party in the Trump years has become an outfit free of governing ideas, Stevens went even further: “It was all a lie.” He noted that this was word-for-word the title of his forthcoming book, It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump. The modern GOP, he said, never truly cared about the ideas it claimed to care about.

This was a stunning indictment coming from a longtime political consul­tant who had toiled on five Republican presidential campaigns and numerous Senate and gubernatorial races. “The Republican Party has been a cartel,” Stevens said excitedly. “And no one asks a cartel, ‘What’s your ideological purpose?’ You don’t ask OPEC, ‘What’s your ideology?’ You don’t ask a drug gang, ‘What’s your program?’ The Republicans exist for the pursuit of power for no purpose.”

He huffed that the Republican Party had not merely drifted away from its core positions, as sometimes occurs with political parties: “Fair trade, balanced budgets, character, family values, standing up to foreign adversaries like Russia—we’re all against that now. You have to ask, ‘Does someone abandon deeply held beliefs in three or four years?’ No. It means you didn’t ever hold them.” He added: “I feel like a guy who was working for Bernie Madoff.”

Stevens, an erudite fellow who is also a novelist and a travel writer, has become an emblematic ex-Republican. He once believed in GOP ideals and ideas. Now he saw it all as a huge con. His new book is a confession and cri de coeur. The first line is blunt: “I have no one to blame but myself.” In these pages, Stevens self-flagellates, calling himself a “fool” for his decades of believing—and lying to himself—that the Republican Party was based on “a core set of values.” Acknowledging his role, Stevens writes, “So yes, blame me. Blame me when you look around and see a dysfunctional political system and a Republican Party that has gone insane.” The book offers one overarching prescription for the GOP: “Burn it to the ground and start over.”

In our conversation, Stevens exploded with loathing for the party he once faithfully (and lucratively) served. He rejected the common view that Trump had hijacked the GOP. No, he explained, the triumph of know-nothing Trumpism marked the culmination of an internal conflict that had existed for decades between the party’s “dark side” and its professed ideals. Even William F. Buckley Jr., often hailed as a grand public intellectual and the founding father of the modern conservative movement, was “a stone-cold racist” in the 1950s, Stevens pointed out. (Buckley at that time considered white people more “advanced” and more fit to govern.)

“A lot of us in the party liked to believe the dark side was a recessive gene, but it’s a dominant theme,” Stevens, a seventh-­generation Mississippian who was named for Confederate Gen. Jeb Stuart, told me. “And it’s all about race. The Republican Party is a white party and there still are more white people than non-white people.” So that is whom the party aims at—even if this will eventually be a losing proposition as the nation’s demographics continue to shift. Ronald Reagan achieved a landslide victory in 1980 by bagging 56 percent of white voters; 28 years later, John McCain lost with 55 percent of white voters. Perhaps the party’s fixation on white voters can work one more time with Trump in 2020. “But we’re talking about the Confederacy—literally,” Stevens said.

And Nazi Germany. On his own, with no prompting, Stevens went straight to the Defcon-1 analogy: “I tell my GOP friends, ‘It’s crazy to say it’s 1934 in Germany…when it’s clearly 1936.’” He insisted that the 1930s are important for understanding the current moment. “When there was rising anti-Semitism, isolationism, and pro-Nazi sentiment, why did the US not become fascist?” Stevens asked. “Because of FDR. Leaders matter, and the GOP has now completely abdicated its role.” Instead, the party has yielded completely to demagoguery and race-baiting to exploit the racism and resentments of certain white voters. Throughout his decades as a Republican, Stevens considered this racist element a bug in the system. He now realizes it has been a feature.

In 2012, Romney enthusiastically sought and accepted Trump’s endorsement, though Trump had been championing the racist birther conspiracy theory. But for Stevens, the decisive moment when the party embraced its ugly heritage came in December 2015, when Trump, then the leading Republican presidential candidate, called for a ban on Muslim travelers to the United States. As Stevens now sees it, Reince Priebus, then the chair of the Republican National Committee, should have declared that the GOP did not support such bigotry and staked out a moral position. Perhaps Trump would still have marched on to victory, but such a move might have distanced the party from a racist candidate. Instead, the party kept mum and eventually folded to Trump. (Romney would go on to be the only GOP senator to vote to remove Trump from office at the end of his impeachment trial.)

Stevens now argues that Trump’s rise was not a fluke that the party can sidestep or survive. “This is the complete moral collapse of a governing party of a major superpower,” he remarked. He wonders how he could have been blind to the GOP’s racism and turpitude for so long. “It is hard to see this when you’re in the middle of it,” he said. “The only analogy I can find is the collapse of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, when the difference between reality and what is believed became so disjointed. I should’ve seen this. I did see this, but I wanted to believe the crazies were a minority.”

Stevens conceded that had Trump not come along, he still might not have been fully aware of the structural immorality of the GOP: The Republican Party was “a comfortable place for a lot of us. If Trump had lost, I’d probably still be working for a Republican candidate. But Trump made it impossible to deny what the party is. I just don’t get why these Republican senators don’t stand up to him. What’s the worst thing? You’ll be an ex-senator? They are the Trump Generation. It’s how they will be remembered. Like the segregationists of old.”

It was hard to slow Stevens down as he spoke. He had so much to confess. He forecast a bleak future for the party. Citing the demise of the Repub­lican Party in California (where more voters are now registering “no party preference” than Republican), he observed that the GOP was becoming a “regional/Sun Belt party.” And he shared his fear that young political operatives working for the party have drawn the lesson that a candidate must emulate Trump to win—that what most matters is not policy ideas but the ability to attack and exploit fears, divisions, tribalism, and resentments. “Elizabeth Warren can articulate a coherent theory of government,” Stevens said. “There is no coherent theory of government for Republicans right now. Usually a coherent theory versus an incoherent theory carries the day.”

“It’s really incredible how this had happened,” Stevens told me, as I realized I had received far more material from him than anticipated. “This is the last book in the world I wanted to write. It is tough to come to terms with this, and incredibly depressing. If we say we believe in personal responsibility, you have to take personal responsibility and start with yourself. We created this. It didn’t just happen.” Stevens was not pleased or satisfied with his epiphany: Ideas are not the currency for today’s GOP and never truly were. And Trump alone could not be blamed for that. “Republicans only exist to elect Republicans,” Stevens remarked with sadness. “They are down to one idea: How can we win?”[Source]


Anonymous said...

I never know what to think of these refugees from the Republican Party, like Stuart or the folks from the Lincoln Project.

Have they abandoned it because they are disgusted by the party's shift away from "selfish rich guy conservatism" to "racist nutjob conservatism"? (A position I frankly don't find all that admirable to begin with, since what I think they really yearn for is the party to stop being horrific and return to being merely very bad. I don't really want to have anything to do with people who evenhandedly hate ALL the poor people, rather than only the brown-colored ones.) Or is this just a new grift -- they've decided the GOP, as currently constituted, is unlikely to win elections in the future, and so they're pragmatically trying to switch teams?

At the moment, I don't trust any of them. It will take a lot of "repenting" on their part before I will believe that they have really learned any meaningful lessons and embraced less toxic views.

PilotX said...

Interesting but sad a grown man couldn’t see reality for what it is. Even sadder is there are negroes like Candace Owens and Paris Denard still cooning for this racist ass party. Sad indeed.

dinthebeast said...

"Had the GOP become the party of no ideas?"
The GOP has been a post-policy party since at least the 1990s. They don't give a rat's ass about governing and only take positions on issues in order to get elected, and this time for the first time since the 1850s, they didn't even do that. The party platform for 2020 was "suck Fergus' dick harder than last time."
And Stuart Stevens has one thing on the rest of the goddamn Republican never-Trumpers who are now trying to occupy the media real estate that should rightfully be the provenance of the liberals who have been right about the Right all along: he at least understands the mechanism of forgiveness.
The rest of the goddamn Republican never-Trumpers are all after the "cheap grace" that is the hallmark of white evangelicals: it doesn't matter what we've done as long as we're forgiven.
But that book they wave around is pretty specific on that subject, and Stuart Stevens at least has the decency to make a half-hearted pass at repentance and atonement.
I still call it a lifeboat, and say burn that motherfucker.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Anonymous said...

"Interesting but sad a grown man couldn’t see reality for what it is. Even sadder is there are negroes like Candace Owens and Paris Denard still cooning for this racist ass party. Sad indeed."

There are a sizeable number of Republican voters who are blinding themselves to what the party really stands for.

There are moderate, old-timer voters who somehow deceive themselves into believing they are voting for the Republican Party of Dwight Eisenhower, when that party doesn't exist anymore, at least at the national level. They end up empowering people like Ted Cruz or Marjorie Taylor Greene. If you confront them about this reality, they will rationalize it away by suggesting that these freakshows are outliers within the party, but increasingly, they are not.

There are also what I call nose-holder Republicans. These are people who hate what the Republican Party stands for, but hold their noses and vote for them anyway because, allegedly, the Democrats are even worse. If you demand they explain what "even worse" means, you'll get a bunch of crazy scare stories from right-wing media: the Democrats will make the country communist, force you to drive a horse and buggy and go vegan to fight global warming, send transexuals to rape your daughter, etc.

Anonymous said...

Basically, what I was saying earlier is that there are a frustratingly large number of "low-information" GOP voters who don't pay enough attention to politics. And that lack of attention, plus listening to right-wing media and engaging in motivated reasoning, means that when they are either voting for an imaginary Republican Party (that's far more sensible than the actually existing one) or against an imaginary Democratic Party (that's far more villainous that the actually existing one).

Flying Junior said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Flying Junior said...

Excellent article, Field. Perhaps we take too much glee in the defection of older, wiser party hard-liners. It's funny how we respect Romney today. The 47% remark made it fairly clear how he felt about most of us. But the clarity is undeniable. It takes a good measure of credibility to draw parallels to the Third Reich. Usually I reserve my thoughts for song parody. I mean, he let his beloved marry a Jew and convert. I guess he gets a pass. But Mussolini. Now there's a valid comparison.

“The Republican Party has been a cartel,” Stevens said excitedly. “And no one asks a cartel, ‘What’s your ideological purpose?’ You don’t ask OPEC, ‘What’s your ideology?’ You don’t ask a drug gang, ‘What’s your program?’ The Republicans exist for the pursuit of power for no purpose.”

I used to enjoy attempting to define Fascism in modern terms. The British point-of-view after WWII was that Fascism was a form of government which had risen and fallen with Italy and Germany. Despite some rather glaring examples of military dictatorships in South America and an authoritarian cult of nationalism and personality that kept Generalissimo Francisco Franco in power until his death, these nations did not earn the dread appellation.

One thing I do remember from the Encyclopedia Britannica was an early response from Benito Mussolini when he was asked what was his political ideology. He replied, "We simply wish to rule Italy."

dinthebeast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dinthebeast said...

Speaking of Huge Cons, the Tea Party is now twelve years old.

Supposedly born from a rant by a protofascist/capitalist decrying the idea of helping the regular folks who had just been screwed out of their houses by the spectacular failure of a group of protofascist/capitalists, the goddamn Tea Party was in reality a huge Republican rebranding effort by the credulous fools who had supported the Bush administration right up until the wheels came off, and in embarrassment and desire to maintain access to polite society, fled its burning wreckage like German soldiers fleeing the fall of Berlin, stopping only long enough to burn their uniforms.

And then abracadabra! There they were, millions of newly minted constitutional conservatives who had never even heard of this Bush fellow that you keep going on about to lugubrious length, but were gravely concerned about government debt when run up by someone so obviously melaninally unsuited for the office of president.

And now here they come again. Only this time they are calling themselves "never Trumpers" and claiming they never liked the tweeting or the profligacy or the inconvenient blurting out of the quiet parts in front of god and CNN.

You will, of course, note that they are not calling themselves "never Newters" or "never Rovers" or "never Atwaterers" or admitting to the existence of the goddamn Republican monster construction machine before the new beginning of time, which this time is the point when Fergus rode the escalator of doom into their waiting arms.

And votes. More primary votes than any Republican in history. And more general election votes than any candidate in history other than Biden.

So the rebranding this time is even sketchier and more dangerous than it was twelve years ago. Instead of yelling at congresscritters in town halls (remember town halls?) they stormed the fucking capitol to try and overthrow the government.

Last time the big lie was "tax cuts pay for themselves" and this time the big lie is "the election was stolen", so if we let them get away with it, what will the next big lie be?

My money is on "democracy sucked anyway, get rid of it and we can be glorious (read that white) just like Russia."

They're building lifeboats in which to escape the consequences of their crimes. Burn those motherfuckers.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

dinthebeast said...

Cy Vance has Fergus' tax returns and financial records. Here it comes.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Anonymous said...

“You will, of course, note that they are not calling themselves ‘never Newters’ or ‘never Rovers’ or ‘never Atwaterers’ or admitting to the existence of the goddamn Republican monster construction machine before the new beginning of time, which this time is the point when Fergus rode the escalator of doom into their waiting arms.”

I mean, some of them are. Some of them, like Stuart Stevens, are copping to the fact that in the past, they had turned a blind eye to the bigots in their party. Although, it would be more accurate to say that they actively courted the bigots for their votes, but didn’t think the bigots would take over and were shocked when they did.

The question is whether their mea culpas are sincere. And also, are they copping to ALL the lying? Or just the racist lies?

Because they haven’t only been telling racist lies. There were plenty of lies that the country club conservatives were also willing to tell. Deficit spending will bankrupt your children (but only when Democrats do it). Tax cuts for the rich “trickle down,” and a rising tide lifts all boats. Unions are all full of mobsters and crooks, and only benefit lazy people anyway. Obamacare mandates death panels. Global warming isn’t real because it’s snowing right now.

Oh and also, Hillary Clinton murdered Vince Foster. (This was back before she murdered Seth Rich and four US government staffers in

And on and on and on. The bullshit predates Trump by decades. Trump didn’t invent Republican lying; he just turned the lying up to 11.

Anonymous said...

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick defends his state’s dumb, deregulated, free-market energy system. Like Rick Perry, he must think his state’s residents like getting screwed over, as long as it keeps the dastardly feds out of their hair.

And if you’re a customer who got a $17,000 electric bill, apparently, it’s your fault.

Oh well, I guess that’s a more honest approach than, like Ted Cruz, pretending you never supported this energy system (even though you totally did), now that it has been proven to be a right-wing ideological fantasy that doesn’t work worth a damn.


So many lowlifes in Texas politics ...

Paradoctor said...

My attitude towards never-trumpers is like a preacher’s attitude about a reformed fallen woman. Sure, she deserves redemption if she confesses, repents, and atones; so she can join the congregation; but no way can she be head of the choir!

Anonymous said...

Why do Democrats keep saying that Trump’s followers are some kind of weird, creepy cult? That’s so unf—

Never mind.

anotherbozo said...

The Baldwin/Buckley debate at Oxford U. has been getting a lot of play on YouTube. I wonder if James Baldwin was aware of his opponent's "stone cold racism" before the debate. He was certainly on topic that day and demolished Buckley. The students concurred.

mike from iowa said...

In another con job in another con state of Northern mississippi, the state's AG admitted to investigators he was reading or watching a conspiracv video involving Bidens shortly before he struck and killed a pedestrian walking on the shoulder of the highway with a flashlight

His initial call tom9-11 he claimed he didn't know what he hit but he hit it in the middle of the road. He struck the pedestrian with so much force the man's head went clear through the windshield with the body still attached.

The guv wants to get this trash out of her administration so badly she released relevent defense materials before any trial and has been ordered by a judge not to release anything else. She is a magat drumpf bitch who has inspirations of running for the WH. And the rules don't apply to her.

PilotX said...

I’m sure Mr. Baldwin was keenly aware.

Anonymous said...

Negro Jaleel Uqdah Arrested For Raping 55-Year-Old Woman Inside Center City Macy’s, Philadelphia Police Say

mike from iowa said...

Landrace or Chester White pigs in California escalated a possible jaywalking stop into killing 42 year old Black man.

dinthebeast said...

James Baldwin wasn't under any illusions as to the character of the people he debated or wrote about. His writing is pretty clear on that subject.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

dinthebeast said...

One thing I feel needs to be noted when discussing the Lincoln Lads, especially where their claims of material benefit to the republic go is that they failed on every single one of their stated goals.
Republican voter turnout?
Increased across the board, and in every one of the "low hanging fruit" senate races they were going to deliver to the Democrats and didn't.
Got millions more votes than he did in 2016.
So why is it again that we need so desperately to listen to their advice on winning elections, let alone governing?
Had they delivered wins against Susan Collins and Joni Ernst we would be in an entirely different governing position right now and they would have a substantive case for their participation going forward, but they didn't, and now we are left to the tender mercies of Joe the fuck Manchin and Kyrsten the fuck Sinema, neither of whom can be faulted for conservative positions in red states.
And we knew that all along.
And so did the fucking Lincoln Lads, or else they are completely incompetent as political actors.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Anonymous said...

Got millions more votes than he did in 2016.”

They can still claim that their campaign helped increase Biden’s vote total and allowed him to win. It’s hard to disprove, so who can say? It’s certainly true that a substantial number of college-educated fiscal conservative voters did flip into the D column when voting for president. Although that might have happened to an equal degree without the Lincoln Project’s ads. Trump is quite repellent to almost anyone who well educated; he was truly the president of stupid people. Those voters might not have needed any extra persuasion to vote against him.

As far as defeating Trump-enabling members of Congress, though, you’re correct. The Lincoln Project failed utterly (as did the DNC, of course). It’s still pretty horrifying that the rest of the GOP paid almost no electoral price for aiding and abetting Trump’s misdeeds for 4 years straight.

Immediately after Election Day, I actually thought the situation in Congress would be much worse. I would not have put any money on Dems winning either, much less both, Georgia Senate seats. Still, the limitations of such a narrow Democratic majority will quickly become apparent — especially since Manchin seems opposed to eliminating the filibuster. The disaster of this is that low-information voters will not understand why the Dems keep failing to fulfill campaign promises. “They are in control of Congress, so what is stopping them from passing Bill XYZ?” they will ask. They won’t see that the Dems are only sort of in control ... but also sort of not.

PilotX said...

“neither of whom can be faulted for conservative positions in red states.“

I don’t know, as much as the Dems have been demonized as commies and baby killers by conservative media they were still elected which means those folks like the Democratic message. If they wanted Republican governing why not go for the real deal and not Republican-lite? This is what Blanche Lincoln and Claire McCaskle found out. May as well go big because you’re gonna lose next time anyway. Either way you made things better while you were there.

dinthebeast said...

They both have made the political calculations that they have in order to win their seats, I guess, and I'm not a senator so I don't have much standing to criticize their strategies, but I will say that Sinema ought to fucking know better.

She's bisexual and has lived through poverty and homelessness, so she has personal experience that should guide her decisions anywhere else besides the blue dog caucus she was in AFTER being a member of the fucking Green party.

I mean, Arizona is wildly politically fucked up, recent Democratic wins there notwithstanding, they are still considering jailing the county election officials who refused to turn over the election equipment and ballots to the state GOP for an "audit" when two audits have already been performed by neutral outside contractors.

And they are still considering legislation that would allow the state legislature to ignore the votes cast in a presidential election and just appoint whatever electors they want.

Trumpy as fuck, is what I'm saying, but we can't let that change what democracy is about, and that's kind of why I'm not coming down harder on either of them. They are who and what they are, they won their elections, and we sort of have to deal with them just like they are. If we wanted someone different to deal with, we could have worked to elect them, but we didn't.

I do fully agree with you about running as "Republican lite" though, the fucking GOP isn't big on subtlety just now, and we have achieved much better results running on our actual values than trying to pander to Bubbas in diners. Bubba may not be all that bright, but he can tell when he's being sold something.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

dinthebeast said...

The "golden" fiberglass statue of Fergus that they're worshiping at CPAC was made in Mexico.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Anonymous said...

“This is what Blanche Lincoln and Claire McCaskle found out. May as well go big because you’re gonna lose next time anyway.”

I don’t think that’s the lesson politicians will take away from those guys’ losses. Being a centrist doesn’t guarantee you’ll get elected in a state like Arkansas or Missouri, but it is an absolute certainty that those states will never elect an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Barring some unique circumstances like Doug Jones winning in Alabama when his opponent disqualified himself by being a perv.)

For me, the bigger problem is not that folks like Manchin and Sinema exist; it’s that the Democrats picked up so few Senate seats, even after Trump’s flaming train wreck of a presidency, that they are now dependent on the votes of folks like Manchin and Sinema for their majority.

mike from iowa said...

Dems electoral problems stem from the hard to explain fact voters prefer magat lies to Liberal truths.

Gambler2 said...

Dinthe beast seaid....

And they are still considering legislation that would allow the state legislature to ignore the votes cast in a presidential election and just appoint whatever electors they want.
I am wondering if this proposed law could stand against a court challenge based on the 14th Amendment. "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

It seem as if overturning the votes of Millions of citizens would be a violation of their rights. I am not a lawyer so I really don't know if the proposed Arizona law would qualify.

dinthebeast said...

Oh, their batshittery gets slapped down in the courts regularly, that's why they are on such a crusade to confirm wingnut judges.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

PilotX said...

dinthebeast said...

Here's Heather McGhee's TED talk about how racism costs everyone, especially the racists:

-Doug in Sugar Pine

dinthebeast said...

Found on Susie Madrak's blog:

Jennifer Cohn
Feb 28, 2021
Yike. Paul Manafort intended for the Trump campaign's polling data to go to Serhiy Lyovochkin. Per the NYT in 2005, Lyovochkin was involved in the conspiracy to HACK ELECTRONIC ELECTION RESULTS in Ukraine's 2004 presidential election.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

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